SAINT-ETIENNE, France — Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and veteran hooker Dane Coles have kissed and made up, or actions to that effect, after the 2015 Rugby World Cup winners came together for the first time since Hansen appeared at Wallabies training.
Coles hadn’t heard about Hansen’s Wallabies involvement — which took place in the lead-up to Australia’s final warmup match against France — when asked about the shock turn of events in London, where the All Blacks were preparing to face the Springboks.
“Who’s that? Yeah, like actually? What like in a camp sort of setup?” Coles said last month when informed Hansen had shacked up with the Wallabies.
“Oh, that hurts a little bit to be fair, I’m actually a bit gobsmacked. I know he’s quite tight with Eddie, I think they’re pretty good mates. But he’s a bit of an icon in the All Blacks setup; yeah I’m actually a bit speechless. It’s a bit disappointing, but we can’t do much about that.”
Hansen explained the situation not long after his appearance broke in the media, saying he was merely doing Wallabies coach and “good mate” Eddie Jones a favour by observing Australia’s preparations for Rugby World Cup 2023.
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And on Tuesday Coles confirmed the two men had reconciled, after Hansen joined the All Blacks in camp ahead of their second pool clash against Namibia, which will be played in Toulouse on Friday.
“He gave me a bit of stick yesterday for causing a bit of a scene but no, it’s good,” Coles told reporters in Lyon on Tuesday. “It’s funny what can change in the past couple of weeks. He got up and had a bit of a yarn and all that little bit of, I suppose, hard feelings [have] been put to bed. He cracked a joke in classic Steve fashion.
“We did (kiss and make-up), had a bit of a hug. I won’t say what he said to me, it was a bit of good humour. He’s got a lot of respect in this environment (and) he was just helping out a mate, once we got a bit of context to it.
“The players definitely appreciate it. He’s pretty sharp and he gives us a bit of s—, which is good.
“He’s got a lot of good, deep connections with a lot of players that he’s coached before. You’ve seen that when he sees the players for the first time, the smiles and the banter. It’s definitely lifted the spirits.”
Meanwhile, the All Blacks will be looking to iron out a few problem areas against Namibia, after they slumped to a first ever pool stage loss in 10 editions of the Rugby World Cup in the tournament opener against France.
New Zealand trailed France 9-8 despite a largely dominant first half in Paris, and then scored almost immediately after halftime to regain the lead at 13-8. But that would be where their scoring finished as France laid on two second-half tries and two further Thomas Ramos penalties to run out comfortable 26-13 winners and send their passionate fans home in absolute bliss.
As well as a horror night of ill-discipline — the All Blacks conceded 12 penalties to France’s four — New Zealand lost the battle at scrum time and saw their impressive first-half kicking game fall apart in the second 40, with Will Jordan carded for a poor aerial challenge.
Asked what success would look like against Namibia, whom the All Blacks piled on 71 points against in Japan four years ago, Coles said the team would certainly have its focal areas.
“A real solid result would be nice. But you’ve got to bring it back. As a forward, the set-piece stuff is always massive for us. We got a bit of a touch-up against France, so I think the scrum is very important,” he said.
“I think success is having a solid scrum, if we can improve that against Namibia that would be awesome.
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“As a forward you take pride on your set-piece and that’s a thing we’ve got to improve on.”
The All Blacks also want to promote a greater ball-in-play time, after only 27 minutes of action was contested at Stade de France last Friday night.
Coles said his team would have to get creative to lift that stat to a higher level in a move that would suit their overall style.
“I suppose the kicking in play and maybe quick throw-ins and stuff like that,” Coles said. “We’ve just got to be smarter and try to keep the ball and make it count and give the work rate off the ball to make sure we can play footy and have a crack.”